Facts, and Opinions, this week

Reports:

The Death of a Businessman and the Philippines’ Drug War, by Karen Lema and Martin Petty

When Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte summoned his security chiefs to an urgent meeting one Sunday night last month, his mind was already made up. His military and law enforcement heads had no idea what was coming: a suspension of the police force’s leading role in his signature campaign, a merciless war on illegal drugs.

Adele Sweeps Grammy Awards, by By Jill Serjeant and Piya Sinha-Roy

Adele won the top three Grammy awards on Sunday, taking home the statuettes for album, record and song of the year in a shock victory over Beyonce.

Commentary:

Media literacy in a post-fact age, by Penney Kome  Column

Fake news is as old as the Internet. From the 1990s, I remember spam, scams, and ghost ship “rolling” petitions that sailed the white-font-on-black-background PINE and LYNX seas – almost as soon as the first E-list was compiled.

Canada needs ranked, not proportional, voting, by Tom Regan   Column

Like many Canadians who had hoped that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would follow through on his campaign promise to reform the voting system in Canada, I found myself deeply disappointed by his sudden announcement, that he had abandoned plans for reform and was sticking with the first-past-the-post system. He was not wrong, however, in saying that proportional representation was the wrong system for Canada.

The terrifying mathematics of the Anthropocene, by Owen Gaffney and Will Steffen  Expert Witness

Powerful rhetoric is used to describe the Anthropocene and current human impact. As The Economist stated in 2011, humanity has “become a force of nature reshaping the planet on a geological scale”. We are like an asteroid strike. We have the impact of an ice age. But what does this really mean?

In Case You Missed Them:

Is Donald Trump a “Black Swan”? by Tom Regan   Column

China’s Waterways Reveal Our Superbug Future, by Michael Gillings.   Expert Witness

Russia’s Military Buildup Focuses on Arctic, by Andrew Osborn   Report

Canada’s Trudeau Avoids Poking U.S. “Grizzly Bear,” by  David Ljunggren and Rod Nickel

Notebook:

F&O aims to provide “boutique” journalism — explanatory, contextual, thoughtful — and a break from the frenzy of the internet. But the speed and complexity of breaking news globally has become overwhelming — even as informed citizenship has never been more critical. Here’s a suggestion for coping: avoid obsessing over distressing news, but do devote at least half an hour daily to a diverse range of quality sites that cover breaking news stories.  Support those sites by subscribing or donating, so they’ll be around when we need them. Some suggestions:

American politics remain the world’s biggest, most important issue. Here are some of the many  good outlets that provide  ethical, professional reporting of breaking news out of Washington: ProPublica; New York TimesWashington PostPolitico. For a broader perspective leave Washington — and the angry bubbles of America — for a daily scan of the global wire services: Reuters,  Associated Press and Agence France-Presse. A healthy media diet includes global outlets. Some examples are the South China Morning PostBBCDer Spiegel International; Al Jazeera and the Financial Times.

Findings from the Internet:

Paul Kennedy of the CBC interviews Wolfgang Streeck, director of the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne, Germany, and author of a new book about the end of capitalism.   Go to CBC Radio’s Ideas program, here, or listen below:

From Streeck’s North American publisher, Penguin Random House:

How Will Capitalism End? The provocative political thinker asks if it will be with a bang or a whimper

After years of ill health, capitalism is now in a critical condition. Growth has given way to stagnation; inequality is leading to instability; and confidence in the money economy has all but evaporated.

In How Will Capitalism End?, the acclaimed analyst of contemporary politics and economics Wolfgang Streeck argues that the world is about to change. The marriage between democracy and capitalism, ill-suited partners brought together in the shadow of World War Two, is coming to an end. The regulatory institutions that once restrained the financial sector’s excesses have collapsed and, after the final victory of capitalism at the end of the Cold War, there is no political agency capable of rolling back the liberalization of the markets.

Ours has become a world defined by declining growth, oligarchic rule, a shrinking public sphere, institutional corruption and international anarchy, and no cure to these ills is at hand.

Last but not least, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau travels to Washington early Monday morning to meet American President Donald Trump. The relationship between the two countries remains one of the world’s most important in terms of trade and security, and is currently one of the most world’s fraught. You may be interested in this documentary, by Canada’s National Film Board, on the relationship between the two country’s leaders.
In Bed with an Elephant (59 minutes, 1986):

In Bed with an Elephant, Kent Martin, provided by the National Film Board of Canada

Reader-Supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We survive on an honour system. Thanks for your interest — and support. Details.

Posted in Current Affairs

Journalism matters: Facts, and Opinions, this week

“You are entitled to your opinion … you are not entitled to your own facts” –  Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Is Donald Trump a “Black Swan”? by Tom Regan   Column

Photo by Cindy Funk, 2009, Creative Commons

Cindy Funk

The definition of a black swan event —  impossible to predict yet with catastrophic ramifications — perfectly describes the rise of Donald Trump, from clown celebrity to the most powerful man in the world. And in that, there is hope.

China’s Waterways Reveal Our Superbug Future, by Michael Gillings.   Expert Witness

Somewhere on the planet, right now, there is a bacterial species quietly accumulating the genes that will turn it into the next superbug. There is still time to tackle antibiotic resistance.

Russia’s Military Buildup Focuses on Arctic, by Andrew Osborn   Report

Russia is again on the march in the Arctic and building new nuclear icebreakers. It is part of a push to firm Moscow’s hand in the High North as it vies for dominance with traditional rivals Canada, the United States, and Norway as well as newcomer China.

Canada’s Trudeau Avoids Poking U.S. “Grizzly Bear,” by  David Ljunggren and Rod Nickel

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is taking a low key approach to dealing with U.S. President Donald Trump, seeking to avoid clashes while indirectly signalling the two leaders’ differences to a domestic audience.

Findings: items we found interesting elsewhere on the internet:

A ‘Resistance’ Stands Against Trump. But What Will It Stand For?, by Beverly Gage, the New York Times Magazine. Excerpt:

Resistance evokes the struggle against totalitarianism, conveying personal defiance and official powerlessness at the same time. So what does it mean to apply that word in an ostensibly democratic system? If you’ve lost at the ballot box but aren’t seeking full-blown revolution, what are the most useful forms of political action? If “yes” seems impossible but “no” seems insufficient, what fills the space between?

Dark Arts, by George Monbiot, the Guardian. Excerpt:

“Soon after the Second World War, some of America’s richest people began setting up a network of thinktanks to promote their interests. These purport to offer dispassionate opinions on public affairs. But they are more like corporate lobbyists, working on behalf of those who founded and fund them. These are the organisations now running much of the Trump administration. … We have no hope of understanding what is coming until we understand how the dark money network operates.

Sorry, American journalists: Canada is no press freedom paradise, by Delphine Halgand and Tom Henheffer, the Hill

Press freedom in Canada faces threats from the state that are every bit as severe as those in the United States.

Meanwhile, Reporters Without Borders noted the Canada recently dropped ten places in RSF’s 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

 

Reader-Supported Facts and Opinions is employee-owned and ad-free. We survive on an honour system. Thanks for your interest and support. Details.

Posted in Current Affairs

Journalism matters: Facts, and Opinions, this week

You are entitled to your opinion … you are not entitled to your own facts” –  Daniel Patrick Moynihan

People exit immigration after arriving from Dubai on Emirates Flight 203 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

America’s travel ban causes chaos. Above, travelers exit immigration after arriving from Dubai on Emirates Flight 203 at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens, New York, U.S., January 28, 2017. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

Commentary:

WASHINGTON DIARY, by Cheryl Hawkes  Column

Estimates put the Washington, DC, Women’s March at between 500,000 and a million people, while sister protests in more than 650 U.S. centres and another 261 internationally drew an additional 3-5 million people. Journalist Cheryl Hawkes marched in their midst. This is her story about it, and thoughts about what comes next.

America’s Fantasy World, by Tom Regan  Column

In the fantasy world of America, globalization can be stopped dead in its tracks, and blue jeans will still sell for $20 a pair at Sam’s Club. Manufacturing jobs long vanished will be returned, despite the onslaught of automation …. Oh, it’s a wonderful world. Lollipops and unicorns and everybody wins the lottery under President Donald Trump. Too bad it doesn’t exist.

Rule of Law vs Rule by Man, by Deborah Jones  Column 

The American Dream has shrunk to one simple question: rule of law, or rule by man?

Dispatches:

U.S. Ban Causes Immigration Chaos, Fury, by Reuters   Report

President Donald Trump’s most far reaching action since taking office plunged America’s immigration system into chaos on Saturday, not only for refugees but for legal U.S. residents who were turned away at airports and feared being stranded outside the country. Arabs and Iranians planning U.S. trips reacted with fury, while Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcomed those fleeing war and persecution.

‘Soft’ Neoliberalism Preceded Brazil’s Far-right, by Roxana Pessoa Cavalcanti   Analysis

Ukrainian groups are recruiting neo-Nazis from Brazil to fight against pro-Russian rebels. However strange this might seem — 30 years after Brazil embraced liberal democracy —  conservatism and political extremism have been on the rise in Brazil.

Protecting Digital Privacy in Public Shaming Era, by Julia Angwin, ProPublica   Advice

Every January, I do a digital tune-up, cleaning up my privacy settings, updating my software and generally trying to upgrade my security. This year, the task feels particularly urgent as we face a world with unprecedented threats to our digital safety.

Turkey’s Pigeon Auction, By Umit Bektas  Photo-essay

As night-time approaches in Sanliurfa, southeastern Turkey, most of the alleyways of the city’s old bazaar are emptying out, except for one. The bustle of daytime trading has died down, but on this little street, a stream of men carry cardboard boxes filled with pigeons to a cluster of three teahouses. Here, they sell the birds at Sanliurfa’s famed auctions.

UPDATECourt awards reporter-turned-politician costs and damages in defamation case. By Brian Brennan

Arthur Kent, a war correspondent who left U.S. television journalism to enter Canadian politics, won a defamation lawsuit against Canada’s largest newspaper publisher and one of its former columnists. Arthur Kent was awarded $200,000 in compensatory damages.

In case you missed it:

Should Trump win, Canada will benefit from fourth wave of US refugees, by Jonathan Manthorpe, September, 2016

There are a few reasons why Canadians might welcome the prospect of Donald Trump winning the United States presidency, among them that it may set off the fourth wave of refugees seeking sanctuary in this country from political persecution and upheaval at home. By and large, Canada has done well out of all these waves of migrants fleeing the U.S

Note: Jonathan Manthorpe is traveling. His column will return in late February.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal, of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by you, our readers. We are ad-free and spam-free, and we do not solicit donations from partisan organizations. Please visit our Subscribe page to chip in at least .27 for one story or $1 for a day site pass. Please tell others about us, and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , , , , |

Focus on America

Security personnel walk on the roof of then White House near Pennsylvania Avenue before Inauguration Day for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Security personnel walk on the roof of then White House near Pennsylvania Avenue before Inauguration Day for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

Notebook:

Donald Trump was today sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. By dint of brashness as much as leadership of a world superpower —  albeit a fading superpower, with more bluster than luster — President Trump’s global impact will be outsized.

And of the many questions and mounting controversies around his election and new administration, one stands out for me:  Will the United States now finally, completely, wash its hands of the grotesque mess it made of the Middle East?

It’s early days. But Trump, like the United Kingdom’s current government bent on washing its hands of a troubled Europe, has shown mostly impatience and anger at the mess. It’s the same mess  arguably responsible for creating the Islamic State. And it’s the same mess that most of the the world — rightly — blames on the the U.S. and the U.K., for their astoundingly foolish 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Will America’s 45th President feed or dampen the raging fires set by that invasion, as they continue to spread far beyond the Middle East, and now threaten to topple the European Project?

For now, below is F&O’s roster of reports and analyses on the new world of a new kind of America.

Deborah Jones

 

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) takes the oath of office from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (R) with his wife Melania, and children Barron, Donald, Ivanka and Tiffany at his side during inauguration ceremonies at the Capitol in Washington, U.S.,  January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

U.S. President Donald Trump (L) takes the oath of office from U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts (R) with his wife Melania, and children Barron, Donald, Ivanka and Tiffany at his side during inauguration ceremonies at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

Donald Trump Sworn in as 45th U.S. President, by Steve Holland  Report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Donald Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States on Friday, succeeding Barack Obama and taking control of a divided country in a transition of power that he has declared will lead to “America First” policies at home and abroad.

Pins are out for the Trump balloon, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

Even as the inaugural party hangovers still throb in Washington, leaders in other capitals are dreaming up ways to discover what kind of blow-hard Donald Trump is. He has given them plenty to work with.

The Trumping of Rationality, by Tom Regan   Column

For many years, economists, philosophers and pundits thought that people would always act rationally:  people would look at options and the information available to make rational choices. But in the mid-70s, two Israeli psychologists – Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky – turned that idea on its head.

Trump Hits Populist Note in Inaugural Address, by Richard Tofel, ProPublica

Donald Trump’s speech largely lacked lofty language, but contained a full-throated populist vision, delivered with confidence, and signaled this from the start in one of its most memorable lines: “Today we are not merely transferring power from one administration to another or from one party to another, but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the people.” This might be heard to echo Ronald Reagan’s 1981 statement that “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” but that would actually miss Trump’s point: The speech did not oppose government — it opposed the governors.

In our recent archives:

America: Andrew Johnson Rides Again, by Jim McNiven  Column

Mark Twain liked to say that ‘History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often does rhyme’. Every hundred and fifty years, I suppose, history has to start to rhyme in the United States. In 1865, a popular President was succeeded by a President who had no clear mandate, who was blustery and not a part of the then Establishment.

Trump’s Hot Air Far From Greatest Climate Threat, by Andrew Revkin, ProPublica  Report

The real risk for climate change in a Donald Trump presidency, according to close to a dozen experts interviewed for this story, lies less in impacts on specific policies like Obama’s Clean Power Plan and more in the realm of shifts in America’s position in international affairs.

The US election as Medieval Carnival, by  Anastasia Denisova  Report

The consumption of fast food media advances fast politics, the swift, screaming and scandalous sort of politics that is so tempting to share and receive “likes” for. So the real winner of this election, in fact, is the viral state of mind.

US Election: Revenge of the Forgotten Class, by Alec MacGillis, ProPublica   Report

Donald Trump’s stunning win Tuesday, defying all the prognosticators, suggested there were many people so disconnected from the political system that they were literally unaccounted for in the pollsters’ modeling, which relies on past voting behavior.

America’s Dark Hour, by Tom Regan  Column

We were wrong. So very wrong.  We thought there was no way that Americans would elect a man so totally unfit to be president.

Changes in Attitudes: The Best, and Worst of Times, by Jim McNiven  Column

To be Dickensian, it is the best of times and it is the worst of times. There is a lot of speculation that maybe America’s new President won’t really do what he said he would do. I wouldn’t bet on that.

Noteworthy elsewhere:

The Trump Administration: ProPublica’s ongoing coverage of the 45th president and his administration.

America’s ProPublica, an independent, nonprofit newsroom that produces investigative journalism in the public interest, is a comprehensive, authoritative resource for followers of American politics.  Go to ProPublica’s coverage of the Trump Administration

To Obama With Love, and Hate, and Desperation, by BY JEANNE MARIE LASKASJAN, New York Times Magazine

 Over eight years, through millions of letters, the staff of the White House mailroom read the unfiltered story of a nation … read more

With President Trump, American democracy faces its greatest test, by  Marilynne Robinson, The Guardian

We have a chance to find out how real and deep American democracy is. We have to live out the ethos of free speech, press and assembly, of equal opportunity and equality before the law. The ethos that has been articulated in the best of American history has to be realized in what we say and do….. read more

Former U.S. President Barack Obama’s final press conference on Jan. 18, 2017:

Last but not least:

Office of the Director of National Intelligence Statement on Declassified Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections

From the news release: “On December 9, 2016, President Barack Obama directed the Intelligence Community to conduct a full review and produce a comprehensive intelligence report assessing Russian activities and intentions in recent U.S. elections. We have completed this report and briefed President Obama as well as President-elect Trump and Congressional leadership. We declassified a version of this report for the public, consistent with our commitment to transparency while still protecting classified sources and methods.”  Read the entire declassified document here: https://www.dni.gov/files/documents/ICA_2017_01.pdf

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope

Facts, and Opinions: Weekend Reads

A full moon rises behind U.S. Border Patrol agent Josh Gehrich as he sits atop a hill while on patrol near Jacumba, California, U.S., November 14, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Blake

Inmates and the Mustang Border Patrol. Above, an agent near Jacumba, California, U.S.REUTERS/Mike Blake

Inmates and the Mustang Border Patrol, by Reuters Photo-essay

American prisoners participating in the Wild Horse Inmate Program train mustangs that will eventually be adopted by the U.S. Border Patrol, providing the agency with inexpensive but agile horses, and inmates with skills and insights they hope to one day carry with them from prison.

Tolkien’s imaginary languages Beat Esperanto for Impact, by  Philip Seargeant

JRR Tolkien began writing The Fall of Gondolin while on medical leave from the first world war, 100 years ago. It is the first story in what would become his legendarium – the mythology that underpins The Lord of the Rings. But behind the fiction was his interest in another epic act of creation: the construction of imaginary languages.

Chronic pain fuels opioid epidemic, by Penney Kome  Column

Of all the stories I’ve seen about the prescription opioid epidemic, only a few touch briefly and lightly on the major factor driving all the prescriptions — chronic pain — before they skip on to recommend better patient and physician education. In the U.S., having 40 per cent of the population in chronic pain is not a given, it’s a catastrophe.

Thailand’s Game of Thrones enters new era, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

While people in the United States grapple with having done exactly what the Founding Fathers railed against and have elected a cartoon version of George III, the entrenchment of authoritarian democracy is going much more smoothly in Thailand.

 

Canada doesn’t need Trump-lite, by Tom Regan   Column

Donald Trump-lite. It’s a scary idea. Anything that looks like a version of The Donald is bad news for any country. Yet this is what Canada faces with the upcoming candidacy of Kevin O’Leary for the leadership of the Conservative party in Canada. For, make no mistake, Kevin O’Leary is Donald Trump-lite.

Oceans Apart, UK and US United in Hate Crime Worry, by Patrick G. Lee, ProPublica  Report

A divisive vote, with jobs and immigrants the most combustible issues. An outcome that surprised the experts. A nation left on edge, with many anxious about intolerance and the violence that can stem from it. No, not just America today, but also the United Kingdom seven months ago.

The Russian government is not America’s friend, by Tom Regan  Column

Let’s be perfectly clear about this: Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government are not America’s friends. They are not friends of democracy, nor are they really interested in promoting any sense of peace in the world – at least a balanced peace. Russia is primarily interested in undermining Western democracy as much as it can without firing a shot … at the west. (Countries like the Ukraine and maybe the Baltic states, that’s a different matter.)

By Julian Vannerson - Library of Congress, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=44993463

Andrew Johnson

America: Andrew Johnson Rides Again, by Jim McNiven  Column

Mark Twain liked to say that ‘History doesn’t repeat itself, but it often does rhyme’. Every hundred and fifty years, I suppose, history has to start to rhyme in the United States. In 1865, a popular President was succeeded by a President who had no clear mandate, who was blustery and not a part of the then Establishment.

Human Rights: There’s an App for that, by Jonathan Manthorpe   Column

An air quality monitor atop the United States Embassy in China  confirmed for the Chinese people what they instinctively knew:  their government lies to them. It has instigated a middle class protest that has the ruling Communist Party scurrying to respond on air pollution.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs

Fresh Sheet: Facts, and Opinions

Trump’s Hot Air Far From Greatest Climate Threat, by Andrew Revkin, ProPublica  Report

The real risk for climate change in a Donald Trump presidency, according to close to a dozen experts interviewed for this story, lies less in impacts on specific policies like Obama’s Clean Power Plan and more in the realm of shifts in America’s position in international affairs.

Extremist terrorism Germany’s biggest threat: Merkel  Reuters Report

German Chancellor Angela Merkel vowed to improve security from extremist terrorists in her New Year’s address, urged Germans to forsake populism and to lead the effort to solve European Union challenges. Merkel is seen as a liberal anchor of stability and reason in a year that saw the Donald Trump elected as U.S. president, Britain vote to leave the EU and U.S-Russia relations deteriorate to Cold War levels.

After looking into Trump’s soul, Japan’s Abe seeks new allies, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

There would be a delicious irony if Japan were driven out of the arms of Donald Trump, and into the arms of  Vladimir Putin because of Shinzo Abe’s suspicions about the reliability of the man who U.S. intelligence agencies unanimously believe was helped into the Oval Office by Putin’s spy agencies.

In case you missed them:

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs

Season’s Greetings

solstice2016_gsl0898

Winter arrived in the Northern hemisphere with the 2016 solstice, and with it comes a welcome lengthening of daylight hours. Photo of Conception Bay, Newfoundland, by Greg Locke © 2016

The December solstice marks our turn from autumn to winter in the North, from spring to summer in the South. It’s a time of celebrations, renewal, and tradition — and for many, a welcome break in routine and a fresh start.

F&O will now take a break, and until our return on Dec. 31 we send our best wishes for your Christmas, Chanukah, and New Year’s celebrations. And for your break — or perhaps as a last-minute gift item — may we recommend the following outside works by F&O members Greg Locke, Brian Brennan, Jim McNiven, and Jonathan Manthorpe.

Brief Encounters column: Brian Brennan was told he could interview Sophia Loren so long as he didn’t ask her about two things … (subscription)

Brief Encounters column: Brian Brennan was told he could interview Sophia Loren so long as he didn’t ask her about two things … (F&O subscription  required)

Brief Encounters: Conversations with Celebrities, by Brian Brennan

Why did Sophia Loren go back to Italy to serve a jail term for tax evasion? Why does the song “Amazing Grace” still occupy a very special place in the repertoire of singer Judy Collins? Why did Michael Nesmith quit The Monkees to start making music videos? Why did Shari Lewis start conducting symphony orchestras after she had endeared herself to kids all over the world with a comedy ventriloquism routine involving a cute sock puppet named Lamb Chop? Why did Chubby Checker go through 20 pairs of platform boots a year to keep his audiences twisting the night away?

Brian Brennan, a founding F&O feature writer and arts columnist, compiled some of the best morsels from his Brief Encounters series, based on interviews with celebrities over 15 years.

The collection of stories, based on conversations he had with celebrities during his 15 years as a newspaper entertainment reporter, are in F&O’s Arts section here — make even a small donation through our Subscription page,  to be taken to the page with the code  to access them. However may we recommend buying an ebook edition for $9.99 on Kindle,  Kobo, or iTunes , to have all 63 columns in one place.

The Yankee Road: Tracing the Journey of the New England Tribe that Created Modern Americaby Jim McNiven

Who is a Yankee and where did the term come from? Though shrouded in myth and routinely used as a substitute for American, the achievements of the Yankees have influenced nearly every facet of our modern way of life.

Join author Jim McNiven as he explores the emergence and influence of Yankee culture while traversing an old transcontinental highway reaching from the Atlantic to the Pacific — US 20, which he nicknames “The Yankee Road.”

A Class Act: An Illustrated History of the Labour Movement in Newfoundland and Labrador, by Bill Gillespie (Photography by Greg Locke)

classact-coverUnion activists rarely make it into the history books and when they do the picture is seldom flattering. In this new edition of A Class Act, journalist Bill Gillespie confronts the myth.

This is the story of how Newfoundland and Labrador union members turned the nation, the colony and the province into the most highly organized jurisdiction in North America. Gillespie’s research reveals union losses and victories, their weaknesses and strengths and ultimately, their success. The narrative is illustrated with more than a hundred photographs.

From the archives:

Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan, by Jonathan Manthorpe 

For over 400 years, Taiwan has suffered at the hands of multiple colonial powers, but it has now entered the decade when its independence will be won or lost. At the heart of Taiwan’s story is the curse of geography that placed the island on the strategic cusp between the Far East and Southeast Asia and made it the guardian of some of the world’s most lucrative trade routes. It is the story of the dogged determination of a courageous people to overcome every obstacle thrown in their path. Forbidden Nation tells the dramatic story of the island, its people, and what brought them to this moment when their future will be decided.

Touched by Fire: Doctors Without Borders in a Third World Crisis, by Elliott Leyton and Greg Locke

When the rapes and massacres, the plagues, the famines, the floods, or the droughts erupt in far-off places, the world stands still. MSF does not. They are the “smoke jumpers” among international aid organizations. While others are often stymied or delayed by bureaucratic red tape, the men and women of Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières or MSF) move in. They provide food and clean water. They dig latrines. They set up first-aid stations and field hospitals. They treat all-comers according to need. Often they are the last to remain in situations abandoned by others as too dangerous.

The risks they take are moral and ethical as well as mortal. They are acutely aware that giving aid is controversial. Does it really do any good to save a child from murder one day when it will probably starve in the weeks ahead? Is it appropriate to bring expensive western medicine into a country that, in the long run, can’t afford it? Should relief be given to civilians who are being starved on purpose, as part of a cynical political game, by a local warlord?

Elliot Leyton and Greg Locke saw something of the implications of these and other questions when they travelled to Rwanda in the fall of 1996. There they found themselves plunged into a humanitarian crisis of epic proportions. Hundreds of thousands of people were on the move. Armed militias and hostile armies lurked in the background. Mass starvation, plague, and an eruption into civil or criminal violence were immediate possibilities. The two Canadians, one an internationally recognized expert on the psychology of killing, the other an experienced photo-journalist, had a rare opportunity to observe MSF in action at a time when the stress was enormous and its resources were stretched to the limit.

They watched and listened, to the perpetrators of violence and their victims, to the survivors and those who gave them assistance, and, above all, to the people of MSF who dedicate themselves to saving lives because, in the words of one MSFer: “The world can afford a humanitarian ideal.”

The result of Leyton and Locke’s research is an extraordinary written and visual record of small miracles performed in the midst of catastrophe.

Newfoundland …journey into a lost nation, by  Michael Crummey and Greg Locke

journey-into-a-lost-nationGreg Locke had been away from Newfoundland for years, working as a photojournalist in Canada, the United States, and in many of the world’s most troubled regions, when he decided to go home – and stay. The photographs in Newfoundland were taken over a period of more than a decade. They chronicle the passage of Canada’s easternmost province from a time when cod were still plentiful and the fishery shaped the lives of most of the island’s inhabitants, to the present, when a vibrant economy, propelled by oil and mineral development, is recasting the island’s identity in a new mould.

What Locke’s photographs reveal is at once forward-looking and nostalgic, beautiful and harsh. Above all, his Newfoundland is populated by survivors: a people who are resourceful, funny, resilient, and strong.

Poet and novelist Michael Crummey draws upon deep-seated memories of his own and of his father’s experience to evoke passing traditions and a disappearing way of life. But, just as Locke’s photographs reveal the emergence of a new, more urban and cosmopolitan Newfoundland, so does Crummey’s writing emphasize the continuing sense of belonging and the determination to persevere that are characteristic of his compatriots. He writes admiringly of a “culture deep enough to accommodate a world of influences without surrendering what makes it unmistakably of this place. Something alive and leaning towards the future.” This book embodies both a vision and a voice of rare power.

Hibernia:  Promise of Rock and Sea. Edited by Lara Maynard. Photography by Greg Locke and Ned Pratt

Hibernia is a platform which will lead to the development of a new offshore oil and gas industry for Newfoundland and Labrador (Canada). The official Hibernia book is a record of the highly commendable effort by so many groups and individuals, from geophysicists and provincial politicians to Hibernia management, staff, and workers, to fully realize the opportunity of the Hibernia project. A generous selection of impressive photos by Ned Pratt and Greg Locke complemented by engaging text records the many facets of the undertaking: faces and feats, construction progress and milestones at the Bull Arm site. These varied elements are combined in a record of history in the making, a quality keepsake chronicling the inception and development of a great enterprise fuelled by a remarkable blend of perseverance and skill.

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Last but not least, here is the trailer for Greg Locke’s latest project, as a photographer for True North: The Canadian Songbook, a musical initiative celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday. The massive project, by Eleanor McCain, includes thirty-three iconic Canadian pop and folk songs reimagined for full orchestras, from Victoria to St. John’s.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope

Facts, Opinions, and Findings of the week

Foreign banks in Britain pay fraction of tax rate, by Tom Bergin

A man walks into the JP Morgan headquarters at Canary Wharf in London May 11, 2012. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File Photo

A man walks into the JP Morgan headquarters at Canary Wharf in London May 11, 2012. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez/File Photo

Some of the biggest foreign investment and commercial banks operating in Britain paid an average tax rate of just 6 percent on the billions of dollars of profits they made in the country last year, a Reuters analysis of regulatory filings shows. That is less than a third of Britain’s corporate rate of 20 percent. There is however nothing illegal about this.

Battle Ends, Bloody Syrian War Grinds On, by Laila Bassam, Angus McDowall and Stephanie Nebehay  Report

Rebel resistance in the Syrian city of Aleppo ended in December after years of fighting and months of bitter siege and bombardment. The battle was one of the worst of a civil war that has drawn in global and regional powers, and ended with victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his military coalition of Russia, Iran and regional Shi’ite militias. The larger Syrian war, however, endures.

Commentary:

Earth on the Docket: Americans join wave of climate litigation, By Mary Wood, Charles W. Woodward, IV, and Michael C. Blumm  Expert Witness

Two days after America’s presidential election a court in Oregon issued a path-breaking decision in Juliana v. U.S. declaring that youth – indeed, all citizens – hold constitutional rights to a stable climate system. The case is part of a wave of atmospheric trust litigation in several countries.

Our Time to Rebel, by Tom Regan, Summoning Orenda   Column

It’s our turn, as American Democrats. This will be a ‘take no prisoners’ fight. Donald Trump and his minions have already shown that they will lie, obscure the truth, manipulate and deny facts, and threaten all who oppose them. And then there are the attacks and threats to be launched by his slavish, zombie-like, mainly-white-supremacist alt-Reich followers.  There are several ways to participate in this peaceful ‘rebellion.’

Britain’s tortuous road to “hard” Brexit , by Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs Column

It is becoming clearer just how wrenching a process it will be for Britain to leave the European Union, and beyond doubt that Britain is headed for a “hard” Brexit.

A Tale of Two Crashes, and Their Aftermaths, by Jim McNiven, Thoughtlines   Column

There are a lot of rough parallels between events in history that suggest that what one generation learns is forgotten over time. One of these is between the political/financial events in the United States between 1830-1850 and 2000-2020.

Arts:

Scandinavia Tackles Fairy Tale Gendering, by Gabrielle Richard, Université Paris-Est Créteil Val de Marne (UPEC)

In Stockholm’s Nicolaigarden pre-school, the teachers do not read Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs to the students. Rather, its library holds children’s books that show different types of heroes and a diversity of family models (including those with single parents, adoptive children, and same-sex parents).

Magazine:

Have I Inherited the Trauma of China’s Cultural Revolution? by Shayla Love  Magazine

Shayla Love’s mother and grandparents lived through China’s Cultural Revolution – now, in a tale that traces its lineage from Chairman Mao’s brutality to scientific research on epigentics, she seeks to know the biological traces of their trauma she carries within her today.

Findings:

The launch of a massive fund chaired by Bill Gates, to invest in a carbonless future and provide “reliable, affordable energy for the world.”   The Breakthrough Energy Coalition pledged to to invest more than $1 billion in emerging energy breakthroughs “to deliver affordable and reliable energy with the goal of reducing global greenhouse gas emissions to near-zero.” You can read the press release here.  The fund predicts increased demand for energy, but “to get there, we need different tools than the ones that have served us in the past. Breakthrough Energy is committed to investing in new technologies to find better, more efficient and cheaper energy sources. The global energy market is massive, and finding a way to open it up is an investment opportunity worth getting right.”

China and the United States engaged in brinkmanship this week over China’s seizure of a research drone in international waters claimed by China. China agreed to return the drone. Read the New York Times report here.

This year broke all records for the numbers of  migrants and refugees on the move, and also for deaths,  on average 20 each day, said a report by the International Organization for Migration. More than half of the deaths, about 7,189, were in the Mediterranean, it said. Read the IOM press release here.  Meanwhile Germany’s Parliament, responding to the political backlash to migrants in Europe, demanded the country make more effort to integrate newcomers culturally. (Read the Reuters report here.)

For something entirely different, take a break from the world-wearying news.

Alan Watts & David Lindberg – Why Your Life Is Not A Journey from David Lindberg on Vimeo.

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs

Battle Ends, Bloody Syrian War Grinds On

By Laila Bassam, Angus McDowall and Stephanie Nebehay 

Rebel resistance in the Syrian city of Aleppo ended on Tuesday after years of fighting and months of bitter siege and bombardment that culminated in a bloody retreat, as insurgents agreed to withdraw in a ceasefire.

The battle of Aleppo, one of the worst of a civil war that has drawn in global and regional powers, has ended with victory for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his military coalition of Russia, Iran and regional Shi’ite militias….

However, the war will still be far from over, with insurgents retaining major strongholds elsewhere in Syria, and the jihadist Islamic State group holding swathes of the east and recapturing the ancient city of Palmyra this week. …. Read our full report here  

Related on F&O:

In 2013 F&O partner Jonathan Manthorpe called Syria our modern Gordian knot. Here are F&O’s works that explain and put Syria’s agony in context:

Aleppo will fall, but Syrian war will go on — Analysis, by By Samia Nakhoul October, 2016

Syria’s mobile amputee clinic, photo-essay, By Khalil Ashawi April, 2016

Heartbreak in starving Syrian town, By Lisa Barrington and Stephanie Nebehay January 12, 2015

Our selective grief: Paris, Beirut, Ankara, and Syria, by  Tom Regan November, 2015  Column

Syria: new weaponry test bed By David StupplesCity University London  October, 2015

Ethnic groups flee as Syrian Kurds advance against Islamic State, By Humeyra Pamuk July, 2015

Al-Qaida Jihadists Suspicious of Iraq-Syria Caliphate, by Jonathan Manthorpe July 16, 2014   Column

Putin supports Syria for fear of revolution spreading to Russia’s Muslims, by Jonathan Manthorpe  : September 6, 2013 Column

Cutting Syria’s Gordian knot no simple feat, by Jonathan Manthorpe   August 28, 2013  Column

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Recommended:

Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs Tagged , , , |

Red Kettles, Fake News, Corruption: Facts and Opinions this week

Viola Desmond the choice for portrait on Canada’s next $10 bill 

Our journalism boutique lineup this week features an essay by Jeremy Hainsworth, weighing discrimination against the good done by the Salvation Army in saving lives. We focus on corruption with three pieces: Jonathan Manthorpe’s column on Transparency International’s latest findings; India’s secretive war against corruption, and how America welcomes foreign high-rollers suspected of corruption at home. Fake News is on our horizon, too, with Tom Regan’s Déjà vu  perspective and thoughts in the Notebook section below. But first, give a minute of your time to the video of Viola Desmond, and don’t miss our brief story about her, below.

Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Fund choice between LGBT rights and saving lives, by Jeremy Hainsworth The annual hullabaloo about the allegedly homophobic and discriminatory activities of the Salvation Army has begun. I'm torn: the Salvation Army has discriminatory policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people issues. It also runs detoxes and rehab facilities for those seeking recovery from addiction. Bottom line: someone who is dead can’t help fight inequality.Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Fund choice between LGBT rights and saving lives, by Jeremy Hainsworth

The annual hullabaloo about the allegedly homophobic and discriminatory activities of the Salvation Army has begun. I’m torn: the Salvation Army has discriminatory policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people issues. It also runs detoxes and rehab facilities for those seeking recovery from addiction.

Fake News: Déjà vu all over again, by Tom Regan   Column

We’ve been here before. Overwhelmed by fake news. Making important political and social decisions based on lies, half-truths and deliberate manipulation of facts, shaping them into something quite hideous. Perhaps even ignoring them altogether.

Canada, Fraudster’s Nirvana, by Jonathan Manthorpe  Column

Canada was slammed in a new report on corruption. It matters because tricks –blind trusts, shell companies, anonymous accounts in tax havens — are spurring the kind of populist, enraged politics that elected Donald Trump and is behind Brexit.  Unless Ottawa ensures that Canada’s privileged classes play by the same rules as everyone else Canada, too, will experience a tide of outrage.

People queue outside a bank to withdraw cash and deposit their old high denomination banknotes in Mumbai, India, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui/File Photo

People queue outside a bank to withdraw cash and deposit their old high denomination banknotes in Mumbai, India, December 2, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Who knew? Modi’s secretive attack on black money, by Douglas Busvine and Rupam Jain

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi staked his reputation and popularity on a secretive flash attack on the corrupt “black money” his government has struggled to eradicate.

Suspected of Corruption, Finding Refuge in the U.S. by Kyra Gurney, Anjali Tsui, David Iaconangelo, Selina Cheng

Wealthy politicians and businessmen suspected of corruption in their native lands are fleeing to a safe haven where their wealth and influence shields them from arrest: the United States, an  increasingly popular destination for people avoiding criminal charges.

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Notebook:

How do we “know” what we “know?” Nope, this isn’t a trick question on an epistemology course. It’s the key to our lives, from the mundane (is that food safe to eat?) to social (can I trust that person?) to the most technical of calculations (how do I design a sound airplane?). Our world is built on evidence-based decision-making. In democracies, we depend on having enough citizens who know about enough stuff to make enough smart decisions — based on the best evidence available — to keep us alive. We depend on having enough citizens willing  to confront problems and fix them. And if there’s anybody left who doubts that our democracies are in crisis, the events of 2016 dispelled our illusions.

Will democracy last? Some fear for this grand experiment; see this study showing a drop in support for the very concept. Its detractors might consider what system they’d prefer: Rule by royals? Tyranny by dictators? Authoritarianism posing as Communism? I agree with Winston Churchill, who considered democracy the least bad of the options.  But our willingness to accept lies as facts — like the lies told during the UK vote on Brexit and the American election — could be its death knell.

This week F&O partner Tom Regan argued in his column, Fake News: Déjà vu all over again, that untrustworthy “news” is hardly new.

But here’s why I think fake news is so widespread today: real news can be depressing. We are a society that avoids sadness, suppresses reflection with distraction, and stocks an arsenal of drugs and therapy for depression. And, increasingly, we also refuse to embrace real news.

The root cause of “Fake News” is deeper than the culprits most often blamed:  the venality of the deceivers, the glee of those who profit, manipulations by the Russians, distrust in traditional media, the gullibility of sheeple. I contend that “Fake News” flourishes because we have a pandemic of Happiness Disorder.

Happiness is, obviously, a good thing. But happiness is neither real, nor achievable, if the only way we can feel happy is by turning a blind eye — especially when there’s a cliff in our road. Staring crises in the face is hardly happy-making — but ignoring a crisis is deadly. Democracy requires that enough of us keep watch to avoid driving off cliffs. Without enough clear sight — without some willingness to seek “knowledge” — where will we find ourselves?

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Viola Desmond, civil rights leader, circa 1940. Photo Nova Scotia Government

Viola Desmond, civil rights leader, circa 1940. Photo Nova Scotia Government

The image of civil rights leader Viola Desmond will grace Canada’s next new $10 bill, being designed for issue in 2018, the Bank of Canada announced this week.

In 1946 Desmond, a successful businesswoman in Nova Scotia, refused to sit in the “coloured” section of a theatre in Cape Breton. Police dragged her out and locked her in jail. She was later convicted and fined on a tax technicality. She lost her appeal, but her story spread far and wide, and by 1954 segregation in Nova Scotia was abolished. Desmond, who died in 1965 aged 50,  was pardoned posthumously in 2010 — by Mayann Francis, also a black Nova Scotia woman, and Nova Scotia’s then-Lieutenant Governor.

Nine years after Viola Desmond’s defiant stand rocked Canada,  Rosa Parks, by refusing to sit in the “coloured” section of a bus in Montgomery, Alabma, became America’s symbol of civil rights.

Suggested reading elsewhere: Viola Desmond deserves better than a once-only holiday, by Stephen Kimber, 2014;  BLACK HISTORY MONTH: REMEMBERING CANADIAN CIVIL RIGHTS ICON VIOLA DESMOND, by  Asha Tomlinson, CBC News.

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Findings:

“The breakup of Europe, the rise of plutocrat-populists such as Trump, the failures of Mark Carney and the technocratic elite: he has anatomised all of them,’ writes Aditya Chakrabortty in a Guardian profile about Wolfgang Streeck: the German economist calling time on capitalism. “Not so long ago, such catastrophism would have been the stuff of Speakers’ Corner. Today, it goes right to the brokenness of politics.”

A remarkable multi-media New York Times feature examines the slaughter underway in the Philippines, where President Rodrigo Duterte has launched a war on drugs unlike any the world has seen. They Are Slaughtering Us Like Animals” by Daniel Berehulak is a gripping photo essay, grisly and sometimes heart wrenching, documenting 57 killings.

— Deborah Jones 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

F&O’s CONTENTS page is updated each Saturday. Sign up for emailed announcements of new work on our free FRONTLINES blog; find evidence-based reporting in Reports; commentary, analysis and creative non-fiction in OPINION-FEATURES; and image galleries in PHOTO-ESSAYS. If you value journalism please support F&O, and tell others about us.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gyroscope